Is 2018 the Year Red Sox Legend Luis Tiant Gets Into Cooperstown?


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By John O’Leary photo credit

If there’s one question on most baseball fan’s lips this year, it must be: will 2018 be the year that Sox legend Luis Tiant is inducted into the hall of fame? If this happens, we could all be heading out to Cooperstown, N.Y. to celebrate the event.

This legendary right handed Red Sox player is among a total of 9 former big league players and the late Players Association chief Marvin Miller, whose names are all included on the ‘Modern Baseball Era’ ballot that a 16 member panel will vote on at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista. There are other candidates, of course, including Tommy John, Jack Morris, Steve Garvey, Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell, and Dave Parker. The candidates must be named on 75% of the ballots for them to earn enshrinement. In layman’s terms: 12 of 16 voters must choose them.

The committee members will no doubt have a tough job deciding on who gets the hall of fame honor. Fans in every state will be on the edge of their seats to see who gets it; Tiger’s fans will be rooting for Morris and Tramell, Yankees fans will want to know if it’ Donnie Baseball, and even Dodgers fans will be eagerly awaiting to see if Garvey gets it – and no doubt suffer if he doesn’t, due to losing the Astros in the seven game World series. Of course Red Sox fans are all about Tiant, and they passionately believe that he belongs in the hall of fame.

While this could certainly be put up for debate and go on for years, we tend to be leaning more towards the Sox Legend for hall of fame induction too.

If you throw it back to 2011, the case was made for Tiant then, when his name appeared on the ‘Golden Era’ ballot. Now he is listed on this brand new ballot, the case is being repeated. Let’s talk a little about what Tiant has done for baseball if you need some convincing.

Tiant logged 19 seasons in the big leagues, fashioning a 229-172 record and 3.30 ERA. He was a 20 game winner an amazing 4 times, has twice led the America league era and gained 2,416 strikeouts against 1,104 walks. Let’s not forget he was all the pitcher of record in two of Boston’s three victories against the Reds way back in the 1975 world series.

You’d be right in arguing that these numbers don’t make him the most obvious choice, no question hall of fame face. In fact, Red Sox fans should probably not go on a witch hunt if the members don’t  select Tiant this time either. But, this doesn’t mean you should be one of those people that thinks just because he isn’t automatically one in everyone’s minds, that he shouldn’t be one at all. That’s too easy a presumption to make. Any candidate that’s up for the hall of fame, even the legendary Willie Mays and the other Modern Baseball Era candidates, should all have their credentials looked into properly.

Now, this doesn’t mean all player’s stats should be compared with players who have already been given the honor of the Cooperstown hall of fame, it’s just that Tiant’s numbers are very close to Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale, who are hall of famers and from around the same area. Hunter’s career record was 224-166, a .574 winning percentage. Drysdale’s was 209-166, a .557 winning percentage. Tiant: 229-172, a .571 winning percentage. That should give anybody who has reservations about Luis Tiant making it. Hunter gave up 2,958 hits in 3,4491?3 innings. Drysdale gave up 3,084 hits in 3,432 innings. Tiant allowed 3,075 hits in his 3,4861?3 innings. Hunter had 2,012 strikeouts and issued 954 walks. Drysdale had 2,486 strikeouts and issued 855 walks. Tiant had 2,416 strikeouts, 1,104 walks.

While Tiant has mostly been ignored, Hunter and Drysdale were elected into the Hall of Fame during their time on the general Baseball Writers Association of America ballot. Hunter was elected in the 3rd year of eligibility, while Drysdale was elected in his 10th.

You may already know that when Tiant appeared on a ballot for the first time in 1988, he was named on 30.9 percent of the ballots cast – which is pretty encouraging by anybody’s standards. However, players do need to hit that 75%. Drysdale was named on just 21% of ballots case out of 362 in the first year. Bert Blyleven who also made the hall of fame only made 17.5% in his first year. However, Tiant fell to 10.5% the second year, and 7.2% in 1991. In 2002, which was his 15th and last year on the ballot, he got just 18%. He faded into the ether. Nobody for sure knows why, as he was a popular pitcher throughout his career. Hundreds of fans still crowd around him when he’s undergoing spring training, or when he’s present at Fenway park.

Fans even look at similar bats that he used on pages like to make sure they can play like him. However, popularity is never going to get somebody into the Hall of Fame, at least not alone. Many guys who have lots of fans and great technique miss out on the hall of fame simply because their credentials fall a little short, for whatever reason. This doesn’t make them any less ‘hall of famers’ in the eyes of the fans, although not in an official sense of the word.

You don’t have to be a Red Sox fan to appreciate Luis Tiant and his credentials. Anybody who has the first clue about baseball can see he would make a great choice.

So, will 2018 be the year that Sox legend Luis Tiant is honored with enshrinement and inducted into the Hall of Fame? Many fans seem to think so. Others seem to think it’s wishful thinking. Is there somebody else you think should make it? Leave your thoughts below!


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